Some people who are hesitant about getting one of the COVID vaccines have expressed concerns about the unknowns surrounding long-term side effects.
Chicago Department of Public Health Director Dr. Allison Arwady was asked during a Facebook Live Tuesday how she would respond to a vaccine-hesitant person "who says we don't know the long-term side effects of the vaccine."
"I usually start by saying, first of all, there are no vaccines that we know of that have long term side effects," she said. "So, there are vaccines that we have studied for years and years and years and years and years... when they're approved, they're not known to give long-term side effects. Where we really are concerned about side effects is especially right at the beginning there, and then typically where you see a problem, it will happen in the first couple of weeks, even with a brand new vaccine. I mean, when they're studying it, very, very, very rare to have anything coming after that time. And in fact, that's part of why the FDA wants the six months of monitoring because if you've monitored somebody for six months afterwards, really there's no biological reason that you would expect there to be any long-term concerns from the vaccine."
Arwady's comments echo similar responses from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the CDC, "serious side effects that could cause a long-term health problem are extremely unlikely following any vaccination, including COVID-19 vaccination."
"Vaccine monitoring has historically shown that side effects generally happen within six weeks of receiving a vaccine dose," the CDC's website states. "For this reason, the FDA required each of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines to be studied for at least two months (eight weeks) after the final dose. Millions of people have received COVID-19 vaccines, and no long-term side effects have been detected."
The CDC said it is continuing to monitor safety with the vaccines.
But Arwady said she's not concerned about long-terms effects.
"Already based on what I knew about vaccines, I wasn't worried about the long-term and then in the studies, they have followed people now," she said. "You know, everybody who is in these studies like for Pfizer, for example, full follow-up for more than six months, which is why they could submit that information to the FDA and that's why it's being reviewed right now for the full authorization. That was one of the requirements for the full authorization."
Arwady noted that there are so far no links between the vaccines and fertility problems.
"That's when we hear a lot about. Again, for this or any vaccine, there's never been a vaccine linked to fertility problems," she said. "There was no reason to think this one would be either, and we've not seen any issues with that. It doesn't affect the placenta... So these are some of the questions we hear. So really it's not a vaccine that hangs around. When you get the vaccine, it does not interact with your DNA, that's a question we sometimes hear, and in fact, you know, it's literally gone just within hours, days, but it has taught your immune system how to fight off COVID."
Side effects are possible after receiving any COVID vaccine currently being administered in the U.S.
The CDC reports the most common side effects for the vaccines is at the injection site. They include:
Common side effects in the body include:
- Muscle pain
The CDC advises people to stick around for 15 minutes after vaccination, and those with a history of other allergies for 30 minutes, so they can be monitored and treated immediately if they have a reaction.
See our guide on side effects with the COVID vaccines so far.